Around 10 kilometres or so east of Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, there is a little, red-painted wooden church from 1712 set against a beautiful backdrop of tall trees.
Inside the church, just to the left of the altar, is a Baroque-style chair with arms and gilded leather upholstery. The chair is a resplendent presence in the church, not only thanks to the lustrous glint of its gilded leather but also because it radiates such joy at being in almost constant use. Is there anything this imposing item of furniture has not beheld in its long life? What tales does it have to tell of all those countless weddings and funerals, of dawn services on Christmas Day, Good Fridays, organ recitals, evensongs and high masses over so many years?
Yet, is it not also a little unusual for a chair like this, which unquestionably projects a more worldly air, to have been given a home in a place of worship?
“The story goes,” so says the verger, “that someone donated the chair to the church while the then King of Sweden was staying as a guest in their home nearby. The king had been using the chair during his visit and when he later expressed a wish to attend a service in the church, it was gifted to the congregation so the king could be assured of having ‘his own chair’ to sit on.”
Another story tells how the locals organised a collection to buy the chair once it became known that the king was to visit the church. Everyone agreed that the Swedish monarch deserved to sit on nothing less than a chair fit for a king.
The chair was made sometime after 1850 in a style known as Baroque Revival.
The Roman numerals MCMXXVII imprinted in the gilded leather represent the date 1927. Is this possibly in commemoration of the king’s visit? The Swedish king in 1927 was 69-year-old Gustaf V.
The proud chair is still in use, not least during the weekly Sunday service when the priest always sits on it for a while to take the weight off his legs.
Nowadays, however, it is perhaps Christmas that marks the high point of the chair’s year. Then it is carefully conveyed to the congregation’s Christmas Market, to take pride of place as the throne for a jolly, real-life Father Christmas. For the chair, it’s almost like reliving the good old glory days.
By Gun Bjerkander Handberg
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